New York Daily News Editorial: Burned again: NYCHA residents are right to sue the authority for its failure to fix broken gas ranges and ovens

Originally published in New York Daily News on April 03, 2021.

Gaslighting, as film noir fans already knew and as most other Americans came to learn during the Trump administration, is when someone chronically misleads, so much so that the people misled begin questioning their very sanity. How else to describe the treatment of NYCHA residents struggling without cooking gas for months on end again this year?

Disruptions to stoves and ovens have been a perennial at the Red Hook Houses: It happened in 2016, and 2018, and 2019, and 2020. And this year since January, 96 apartments across three buildings have been left to rely on a single measly electric burner to prepare food, often for large families, even on Easter Sunday. Authority officials say it’s all for their own safety, after the discovery of a leak in a meter room, and tell the online news site The City that the problem will be fixed by the third week in April.

While the bureaucrats seem to take their sweet time, and no doubt it would all take longer were NYCHA not under the watchful eye of a federal monitor and a results-oriented chair and CEO, Red Hook residents keep paying their rent. They do this even as disruptive construction drags along to fix damage done by 2012′s Hurricane Sandy, and as rodents scurry about and mold slowly grows.

Families at the end of their ropes are taking their landlord — the city’s biggest one, and by some measures one of its worst — to Brooklyn Housing Courty. We wish them luck. Better still, the Legislature should pass Sen. Mike Gianaris’ bill to reduce the rents of tenants whose utility service is disrupted.

Yes, in case you forgot or never knew it: Residents of public housing pay either 30% of their adjusted gross household income toward rent or a flat rate by apartment size, whichever is lower. NYCHA may be cash-strapped already, but an apartment without reliable heat, hot water, gas or water isn’t a proper home.